Monday, 12 April 2010

Salum, "People say it takes a man to stop using hard drugs; it is no joke"

STONE TOWN, Salum, 40, from the western district of Zanzibar spoke to IRIN about his struggles with addiction. He is undergoing rehabilitation at an informal centre.

"I started using drugs in 1987 while in Karachi, Pakistan, where I had gone in the hope of travelling on to Europe. I made a living in the ghetto by repackaging 'crack' for trafficking in small sweet-like packages.

"I was introduced to drugs by a lady we were living with. I started by smoking joints [marijuana], then graduated to ‘riding three horses’ [a cocktail of marijuana, tobacco and heroin], then injecting [heroin].

"When I got a chance to go to Europe in 1992, I was arrested in Italy and deported to Zanzibar where I continued my drug habit.

"I did not want to become a thief but I ended up becoming one to buy drugs. I embarrassed my family; people here [in Zanzibar] are very sensitive, they know each other, they talk.

"My dad struggled to assist me until his death. My brothers and sisters did not help me, they said it was a choice I had made to use drugs and that it was up to me to stop.

"My mother did not abandon me; she would bail me out whenever I was arrested for stealing. When she died, a month before I was sentenced for robbery with violence, I felt responsible for her death; she had died of high blood pressure. I regret making her suffer; she sold her jewellery trying to get me treated.

"In jail, I continued using drugs; other prisoners would ask me to test their 'product' due to my Pakistan experience. Years later, I was released having wasted most of my life.

"I eventually found the courage to approach my brother to ask him to pay the fee at the drug recovery centre; he did not take me seriously. But I persisted and he paid 300,000 Tanzanian shillings [about US$222] for three months.

"I have struggled with addiction for more than 20 years; I was wondering why I was not able to stop. I would sit up at night and cry because I felt unwanted. I tried to quit but relapsed, I wanted a quick fix.

"Before, I felt no remorse at my violent actions; I used to live to be high... At the recovery centre, the trainers say we should seek forgiveness from those we wronged in the past; but how do I do this when I caused some people such harm? People used to be afraid to meet me in Stone Town's alleys.

"At the recovery centre, I have learned to be patient, to accept that I am sick and that if I give into temptation it will be a big mistake.

"During my detoxification, I went for eight days vomiting and passing loose stool at the sight of food. People say it takes a man to stop using hard drugs; it is no joke.

"I am putting on weight and getting positive encouragement but when my rehabilitation is over, I am not sure where I will go. My uncle, who is helping me now, does not want me to stay at his house incase I cause trouble. My siblings do not trust me. I hope to be reunited with my family someday. For now, getting rid of the addiction is my priority; God will take care of the future."

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